Letter: The Home strongly supports 161 S. Huntington plan

September 13, 2013
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In light of the recent court ruling allowing the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council’s lawsuit against the Boston Residential Group’s (BRG) development of The Home for Little Wanderers’ property at 161 S. Huntington Ave. (“No bond needed for JPNC lawsuit appeal,” August 30), I would like to explain to the JP community at-large The Home’s position on the impending sale of the property to BRG and to express our strong desire to see this issue fairly resolved.

The Home was and remains pleased to have engaged in the sale of this property with BRG because they offered the best use of the property and at a purchase price that allowed us to complete our plans for better serving the children who have resided there with us. We specifically did not approach hotel and office developers or other institutional users as part of our process in the attempt to be good neighbors by minimizing traffic congestion and avoiding a transient clientele that would be in and out of the facility all day and night.

The Home had been serving children at 161 S. Huntington Ave. since it was built in 1914. It was used as a therapeutic residential and special education program for boys and girls ages 5 to 13. While the program was effective, the facility itself had deteriorated considerably and had long since outlived its usefulness to our mission. Our own year-long feasibility study with an eye toward renovating the property proved that. In the end, the cost to The Home was unaffordable and we instead opted to expand our existing facilities on our 166-acre Longview Farm facility in the Town of Walpole. Longview Farm had the potential to provide the ideal setting for a new group of children to thrive.

When we realized it was not feasible to stay in JP, I personally called upon Mayor Menino and our City Council delegation to inform them not only of our plans, but also to reiterate our intentions to remain a Boston-based agency. The Home will continue to have a strong presence in the city not just via our corporate offices, but in three other residential settings across the city, as well as behavioral health counselors based in almost 50 Boston Public Schools. I expressed confidence in finding a buyer who would bring much-needed housing to the neighborhood and return the property to the city’s tax roll.

Our impending sale of 161 S. Huntington Ave. to BRG will accomplish that and allow us to continue our mission to ensure the healthy behavioral, emotional, social and educational development and physical well-being of children and families living in at-risk circumstances, a mission that dates back to 1799 here in the city we call home.

The Home for Little Wanderers continues to strongly support BRG’s plan for our old site, and we expect that the residents who will live there will be good neighbors to the Jamaica Plain community as we have been all these years.

Joan Wallace-Benjamin

President and CEO

The Home for Little Wanderers

Boston